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No parking on the dance floor -- unless you like soft rock

Wednesday, Jun 20 2001
San Francisco has a long history of fascinating face-offs. Who could forget Richard Hongisto and his police staff vs. the Bay Times; the bottle of Jack Daniel's against Jack Davis' bent-over Satanist; or Chronicle Executive Editor Phil Bronstein's recent tangling with seven feet o' dragon? It may be time to add a new twosome to the roll call: Supervisor Chris Daly and District 6 Democrats President Frederick Hobson.

Daly and Hobson are already well aware of each other. After Hobson's candidate for supervisor, Chris Dittenhafer, was trounced by Daly in last year's election, Hobson invited the new supe to a benefit at Backflip this past February. The night soon turned messy, as Hobson and Daly crossed swords over who should be allowed in. Now, following Daly's introduction of a new piece of legislation, relations between the duo have grown more contentious.

Daly is proposing that the city do away with the Dancehall Keeper Permit, a seemingly redundant license that dance venues must buy in addition to either a Place of Entertainment Permit or a Public Assembly Permit. Without the need for an extra form, places like churches and restaurants -- and yes, clubs -- could have dancing anytime. When Hobson found out about the legislation, he fired off a nasty letter to Daly (which he then faxed to SF Weekly) questioning whether Daly was attempting to institute a "late-night entertainment zone" in District 6 neighborhoods (primarily the Tenderloin, SOMA, and North Mission).

"Daly's listening to young people who basically like to party, and that's just fine," Hobson says via phone from his Tenderloin apartment. "I was young, too, and I used to stay up all night long -- sometimes for a week."

So you're saying it's OK to party, but not in your neighborhood?

"We don't mind late-night venues -- but it just depends what kind and what kind of clientele it will attract," Hobson explains. "If it's going to be a soft jazz club, that's perfect. Or a piano bar or restaurants that are open all night. We could use some of them."

Hobson changes the subject. "If you go down to Sixth and Market ... there's a club called Polly Esther's where drugs are openly sold, where there have been one or two murders, where guns are carried. And it goes to 6 o'clock [in the morning]. Hello!"

Ah yes, Polly Esther's, that haven of debauchery where suburbanites and yuppies dress up like John Travolta and Boy George. Why don't the police close that place down?

"This [legislation] takes the police out of the process," Hobson says. "The politicians don't give a damn about poor people -- they really do not." Hobson goes on to say that his district is full of "the frail elderly, small children, and disabled residents" who won't be able to resist the incoming mob of Glo-Stick-waving ravers.

For his part, Daly wants little to do with Hobson. "I don't feel a need to reply to Frederick," he states coolly via phone from his City Hall office. "I'd rather talk about my legislation."

Daly says the Dancehall Keeper Permit "caught my eye because of the Footloose aspects of it," referring to the 1984 flick in which Kevin Bacon tries to fight the power with his feet. "The city is in the business of permitting -- or specifically not permitting -- the act of dancing. Most of the provisions that are under the Dancehall Permit are under another permit, like the Place of Entertainment Permit. So it was a pretty easy procedure to drop the Dancehall Permit and move some of the other procedures under the other permits. ... If my legislation passes, dancing will not be a regulated activity. You can dance wherever and whenever you like."

Thanks to a recent poll by the San Francisco Late Night Coalition (which Hobson alleges is controlled by the adult entertainment industry), Daly has numbers to back up his soft-shoe routine. "San Franciscans were asked if they think dancing is a freedom of expression and should not be controlled by the government, and 85 percent agreed."

Hobson is convinced that the legislation promotes late-night venues, which, he believes, "traditionally are a gateway to drug use and addiction." (He has no figures to back up his accusation.) Bill Barnes, Daly's legislative aide, says Hobson is wrong. "The late-night permitting process and specifically the liquor license process are governed by other state and liquor laws. This [ordinance] has nothing to do with [late-night issues]. Mr. Hobson just doesn't seem to get along [with others] very well."

"I'm not asking [Daly] to like me, believe me," Hobson says. "I'm not running a popularity contest, because I'd lose every time."

For now, the ordinance has been referred to the Neighborhoods, Services, and Parks Committee. It's expected to come up for a vote before the board by the end of July.

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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